The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities lacks the programme management expertise to oversee the construction of a £102.9m holocaust memorial and learning centre in London, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.
The plan to build a memorial first came about in 2015 under prime minister David Cameron. A team led by Sir David Adjaye won a role to design it and construction was due to start this year on a site in Victoria Tower Gardens, near Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.
While construction has not yet started, the NAO launched an investigation in response to concerns from MPs about the programme’s governance, cost transparency, and management.
Lack of track record
In its report, the NAO found that the department does not have a track record of managing programmes of this nature.
It said that while the department had recruited specialists from across the civil service and externally, the team does not have staff with programme management expertise in senior positions.
The programme does have a board of external advisers – the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation Advisory Board.
Difficulties securing planning permission
Meanwhile, the NAO noted that the department has had difficulties securing planning permission for the project since December 2018.
In April this year, the high court quashed plans to build the memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens. The project originally received planning permission last year after a six-week public inquiry. But earlier this year, the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust brought a case against the decision, arguing that it was the “right idea, wrong place”.
The government said it would consider its next steps but remained committed to the creation of a new national memorial commemorating the victims of the holocaust.
The NAO’s report warned that the government does not have an alternative location if it is unable to build the memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.
As of April 2022, the department had spent £15.2m on the project.
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